France calms fears over Facebook Timeline scare

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After French newspapers set off a 24-hour privacy panic over Facebook messages, the country’s privacy regulator moved quickly to tamp down the furor.

After interviewing Facebook executives for three hours on Tuesday, France’s Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés is now debunking rumors of a privacy bug in Timeline, the Facebook feature that shows a user’s personal chronology.

The investigation came after the French tabloid Metro reported on Monday that private messages were appearing unexpectedly on users’ Timelines. The rest of the European press and some US tech blogs quickly repeated the allegations, leading to widespread fear that Facebook had exposed people’s personal lives.

The French privacy regulator, however, has now accepted Facebook’s explanation that the “messages” were simply old public Wall posts that became visible once more. According to a report yesterday in Le Figaro, French ministers had initially proposed that the regulator file a complaint with the public prosecutor. Now, any legal action appears to be out of the question.

The CNIL did, however, find that Facebook’s decision to make the old Wall posts visible with relatively little notice had led to confusion among users.

Le Figaro adds that the French ministers have accepted the explanation, but stated that Facebook’s actions had stirred up “a lot of emotion” among users. They also said the matter highlighted the importance of protecting personal data and showed a lack of data transparency by actors like Facebook.

(Image by InfinityPhoto via Shutterstock)

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